Slow websites are bad for business

Loading times play a huge role in the success of your website. We know that. We are fully aware that if a website doesn’t load fast enough, visitors will have left without having seen any of the content. We know all this because after all, we are Internet users too.

Despite the importance of loading times, we’re faced with increasingly content-heavy websites filled with fancy imagery, social media plugins and other content. It’s as if we collectively forgot that poor web performance ruins our browsing experience!

Slow websites make for unhappy customers

The influence of speed on retention and engagement metrics is old news, let’s recap some of the most noteworthy casestudies:

  • Back in 2006 Google came to a curious insight when testing with the amount of search results: moving from a 10-result page (0.4s loading time) to a 30-result page (0.9s loading time) decreased traffic and revenue by 20%.
  • When Google Maps was slimmed down from 100KB to 70-80KB, traffic increased with 10% in the first week, followed by 25% in the two weeks thereafter.
  • During a 12-week experiment, Google also found evidence of the continued effect of slow loading times. Even after the initial experience during the first 7 weeks, the negative impact was found to persist among the test subjects:Google's finding on the persistent impact of delay
  • Running a similar experiment, Bing tested the influence of server response times on a variety of metrics, as seen below:Bing's server response times test results
  • Mozilla managed to increase Firefox downloads by 15.4% after shaving off 2.2 seconds off the average load time of the download page.
  • The team at Hotmail found that a 6s load time delay caused a 40mil drop in ad impressions each month; which amounts to a revenue loss of $6mil revenue per year.
  • Facebook found that slow-downs did not affect the time spent browsing the site by all that much though Inevitably pageviews did drop (as they’re proportional to the page loading time). Improving the site’s performance allows users to browse faster and explore more content on the site, in the same window of time.
  • Walmart used RUM measurements to track the impact of optimisations made to their site, and the results were fantastic: every 1s of improvement resulted in a 2% increase in conversions, and every 0.1s incremental revenue grew up to 1%. The findings were presented at a SF SV Web Perf Meetup, slides can be viewed here.
    Walmart Buyers vs. Non-Buyers performance
  • In a Tag-Man case study on page speed and conversion behaviour for UK e-tailer Glasses Direct, the findings match those of Amazon: a 1s delay resulted in 11% fewer pageviews, -16% customer satisfaction and -7% conversions.Glasses Direct's conversion rates by PLT
  • Shopzilla reduced their page load time from from 4-6s to 1.5s, which resulted in a 7-12% increase in conversion, and 25% more pageviews.
  • MSN conducted a variety of casestudies to understand the impact of performance on their site, a few findings:
    • Delaying ad loading with 1s (core content loads before ad) helped business metrics, but hurt the ad business:
      MSN's findings when delaying ad loading
    • Decreasing the JavaScript execution time, increased responsiveness:
      MSN's impact of decreasing JS loading time
    • Loading the JQuery asynchronously instead of synchronously had the following results:
      Effect of asynchronous JQuery loading by MSN

Sustaining online engagement has gotten a lot more difficult over the years, and as we’ve seen from the experiences above, a website’s performance can be the dealbreaker… or the dealmaker.

The early bird catches the worm

Putting it all together, we see how a fast loading website positively influences conversion, pageviews and customer satisfaction – and eventually improves our bottom line. Performance matters, but not just for businesses with online sales or advertisements. Customer satisfaction, and the impact of a bad user experience is much harder to measure, but relevant for any type of business. Considering we just read that some users never recover, we can’t ignore this one!

The effects of sweet, sweet performance stretch beyond the borders of your website: let’s talk about Internet users actually getting there. Since 2010 the folks at Google include your site’s speed measurements in their search results ranking algorithm to improve the user experience for organic traffic. Slow websites should drop down the list, but if your performance game is strong your site is likely to be bumped higher up the search results chart, making organic traffic more likely to find you. Paid traffic is influenced in a similar way. Your AdWords Quality Score depends on (among other things) the performance of your landing page. So, make sure that whereever you want your visitors to end up… things better run fast and smooth!

In a nutshell, performance improvements have a positive effect on (potential) customers, making it more likely for them to find and interact with your brand.

 

About the Author

Thijs de Zoete

Technical guy at Warpcache